July 2011 – Jack Granatstein, a member of MLI’s Research Advisory Board, writes a monthly column for the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute. This month, he comments on a recent Globe and Mail article on how the Harper government is giving the military a role in citizenship ceremonies. Granatstein takes issue with a comment in the article from Michael Fellman, a professor emeritus of history at Simon Fraser University, who says, “The Tories are in a long-range campaign to change Canadian values and make them more conservative…. It’s an attempt to imbue new citizens with awareness of the military, and the military means a whole host of other things, sacrifice for freedom and all that stuff and it rallies people around these very chauvinistic values. It’s not the Canada I prefer to think about.”
An excerpt from Granatstein’s rebuttal below:
But Canada’s military heritage does include “sacrifice for freedom and all that stuff,” those things at which Fellman sneers. Some 45,000 Canadians died in the war against Hitler and Nazism so that all of us, including university professors, can be free to say what we choose when we choose to say it, no matter how silly. Without their sacrifice for, yes, freedom, Fellman would have grown up speaking German.
But it has ever been so. In peacetime, soldiers are routinely scorned. Rudyard Kipling’s “Tommy” captured this more than a century ago: “O it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, go away”; But it’s “Thank you, Mister Atkins,” when the band begins to play…” We all hope that after Afghanistan and Libya, the band won’t begin to play for a long time. But if it does, Professor Fellman can expect that Canada’s Tommies will be there to protect his freedom.
Historian J.L. Granatstein is a Senior Research Fellow of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute. His article was originally published by the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute and was picked up by the National Post on July 5, 2011.
Click here to read a PDF version of the article.